Areas for improvement have been noted in the official controls done by Norway in two sectors.
One audit in June 2022 looked at poultry meat products. Another in September covered imports of food and feed of non-animal origin.
Norway is in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) monitors how the country implements European Economic Area (EEA) rules on food and feed safety as well as animal health and welfare.
The audit on products of non-animal origin (PNAO) found Norway’s system is based on adequate documentary, identity and physical checks performed by knowledgeable and experienced staff. PNAO are things like nuts, fruits, vegetables and spices.
Two of the border control posts (BCP) visited had premises and facilities which were not compliant with the nature and volume of certain goods handled. This resulted in official controls being performed elsewhere. Sites used for carrying out activities, including sampling, did not meet the minimum requirements which could compromise the integrity of samples, said auditors.
Minor issues found
Cooperation between the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) and Norwegian Customs ensures that PNAO subject to a temporary increase of official controls or emergency measures are identified and subjected to relevant checks.
Evidence was provided that operators generally inform the BCP of import well in advance of arrival. In cases where operators do not do this, Mattilsynet writes to them. Staff at the BCPs visited said it is rare that the arrival of consignments is not pre-notified.
At Oslo port, 14 consignments had been rejected in 2021 versus eight in 2020. At Oslo airport, 19 shipments were rejected in 2021 compared to 11 in 2020, mostly due to documentation issues.
Documented procedures were available, though in some cases they were not up to date, did not address all official controls and were not consistently followed. This could lead to inconsistent application of regulatory requirements, said auditors.
Auditors met staff from a contracted private laboratory that acts as the official lab for aflatoxins, ochratoxin A and ethylene oxide analysis. The lab sends samples to a subcontractor in another country, which has not been named as an official laboratory by Mattilsynet. However, it is listed as an official laboratory by the authority of the country where it is located. The National Reference Laboratory (NRL) said accreditation for aflatoxins and ochratoxin A is not expected until 2023.
A lack of accreditation at the NRL may undermine assurances that only safe PNAO is entering Norway from other countries and being placed on the market, said auditors.
The second audit found a system for risk-based official controls in poultry slaughter and at processing sites is still being developed. Use of the risk-based model is not mandatory.
The audit team saw examples of the calculated frequency of controls being reduced at regional level and local staff attributed this to resource constraints.
Controls do not ensure that hygiene legislation is met at poultry processors as not all non-compliances related to general hygiene issues, infrastructure and animal by-products (ABPs) are being detected, found auditors. This may increase the possibility of unsafe items entering the human food chain.
The audit team saw examples of poor control of wastewater in processing areas, issues with poor cleaning of premises, issues with infrastructure such as missing paneling on walls and flaking paint and personal hygiene issues such as outside clothing not fully covered by personal protective clothing while in production areas.
Non-compliances related to animal by-products included ABPs stored in the same chiller as food for human consumption or kept uncovered outside, no differentiation between items used to store ABP and food for human consumption in processing areas and a lack of labels attached to packaging or containers with ABPs.
Slaughterhouse staff perform post-mortem inspection in most poultry sites under the supervision of official veterinarians (OVs) and official auxiliaries (OAs). Employees don’t do other official control duties like sampling.
The frequency of Salmonella and Campylobacter sampling in slaughterhouses has been reduced with a national control program in place. However, authorities do not verify that slaughterhouses comply with the process hygiene criterion requirements for Campylobacter in broiler carcasses.
Guidance has been developed at department level but tends to be incomplete or inconsistent across regions. This weakens the quality and consistency of official controls, said auditors.
Mattilsynet said new guidelines and training on slaughter hygiene for white meat are coming in 2023. However, upgrades and reorganization work has led to some delays.
“We have several ongoing initiatives that will contribute to ensure effectiveness of official controls. This year we have allocated resources to collect, analyze and use data in a better way to work with the effectiveness of official controls. Hopefully, we will have procedures and arrangements in place to ensure the effectiveness of official control with effect from 2024.”
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